Currencies between Cultures: HRC Conference Report
The Currencies between Cultures conference was held on the 3rd of July, with the intent of creating an
interdisciplinary dialogue about the role of currencies in formulating culture, and in connecting and/or
isolating cultures from one another. The one day conference had 35 attendees, including 10 speakers
from several countries. The conference was truly interdisciplinary in nature, with speakers from
outside of academia (coin collectors, independent researchers, representatives of museums within
the UK), as well as within the fields of history, Chinese literature, archaeology, Classics, and art
history. All agreed that that the interdisciplinary nature of the conference created a fertile ground for
the discussion of new ideas and perspectives. The high quality of the papers given attests to the
growing concern in the modern world with the role of currency in society, and the burgeoning research
within this area.
The first panel of the day examined the theme of currencies beyond borders. The activities of the mint
in the USA in the late 19th century was discussed, as was the movement of ancient Roman coins to
non-Roman lands, and finally the history of the movement for an Esperantic currency, whose motto
remains “One World, One Language, One Currency”.
The plenary address was then given by the Warwick Visiting Speaker, Liv Yarrow. She provided an
excellent paper that addressed the themes and interdisciplinary nature of the conference, taking as
her starting point the recent social media storm created by Time Magazine’s use of a palm tree and
sunset to represent Africa. Yarrow asked why it is that the palm tree represents Africa in the modern
world, and traced the history of this image via numismatic imagery to its ancient antecedents. As a
Warwick Visiting speaker Liv also held meetings and discussions with Clare Rowan on their
respective numismatic books within American Numismatic Society / Cambridge University Press
Handbooks to the Coinage of the Ancient World series, and postgraduates were offered the
opportunity to meet with her and discuss their research.
The first afternoon session addressed the role of coins as a medium of communication, with one
paper examining the use of coinage by the Roman emperor Nerva, and the other exploring how the
suffragette penny used by the British Museum in the series A History of the World in 100 Objects has
inadvertently led to a modern industry of fake pennies with suffragette slogans. This was followed by
a session examining the role of coinage as a medium of cultural mediation, with one paper examining
the use of entangled objects as numismatic iconography on coinage in ancient Sicily, and the other
examining instances of bi-lingual currencies in the third century AD in the Roman Empire. The
conference ended with a panel examining the role of currencies at times of change, with one paper
examining the impact of changing currency forms on literature in seventeenth century China, and the
other exploring the changing decoration of bank notes under the Al-Assad regime in modern day
Syria, including the use and reception of ancient monuments.
Although broad in scope, all papers given had interesting points of commonality, provoking intense
discussion about the role of currencies in different types of society. New networks and contacts were
formed, and feedback on the day was positive, with participants going away with something to think
about; the organiser, for one, has been provided with new ideas and perspectives!
The organiser would like to thank the Humanities Research Centre, the Department of Classics, Josie
Brown, and David Swan for their support of the conference and assistance on the day.
Clare Rowan, Research Fellow, Department of Classics and Ancient History
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Currencies between Cultures: HRC Conference Report Currencies between Cultures